Monkfish made an impressive start over fences as he strolled to victory in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse.
Winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, Willie Mullins’ charge was sent off the 1-3 favourite to make a winning debut in chase company.
Paul Townend had him settled in third as Sams Profile set the early gallop, with Monkfish travelling and jumping well throughout before moving to the front with a couple of fences to go.
Monkfish just had to be kept up to his work by Townend, with stablemate Ontheropes trying his best to make a race of it, but he was ultimately well held in finishing a four-length second, with Sams Profile a further seven and a half lengths back in third.
Paddy Power cut Monkfish to 9-2 from 8-1 for the three-mile Grade One novices’ chase at the Cheltenham Festival, formerly run as the RSA Chase.
Townend said: “You couldn’t ask for more. He missed the ditch where I gave him a squeeze and he changed his mind, but you couldn’t ask for any better the whole way around.
“I gave him one squeeze down to the last and he picked up well. He’s very good.”
Mullins added: “Monkfish was very impressive. Paul was pleased with him and I had to be as well. He’ll aim for Christmas.
“He’s grown up a lot since he was beaten over hurdles here about a year ago. His jumping was very accurate and it looks like fences will be his job.”
Mullins and Townend enjoyed a hat-trick on the day with Concertista (6-4 favourite) landing the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle while Hook Up (10-11 favourite) impressed with a 12-length verdict in the first division of the Kettles Country House Supporting Fingal Ravens GAA Maiden Hurdle.
The second division of the two-mile affair went to Keskonrisk (6-5 favourite), who was a £370,000 purchase for owner Michael Grech back in January.
Now in the care of Joseph O’Brien, the five-year-old got up in the dying strides to prevail by a head for JJ Slevin.
Brendan Powell, O’Brien’s assistant, said: “Henrietta Knight bought him for Mike (Grech) and he’s a lovely horse.
“JJ said he’s a great traveller and when he asked him to pick up it took him a while, but he does have a turn of foot. A faster run race would probably suit him.
“He’s ground it out well in the end and has won going away. He’s one to look forward to, as he hasn’t put a foot wrong the whole way around and he’ll jump a fence.”
Slevin was in the wars later on the card though, falling from Curious Times at the first in the Irish Racing Industry Fundraiser For Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin Handicap Hurdle, bringing down Desire De Joie.
The IHRB’s senior medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh said: “JJ Slevin has been taken to Blanchardstown Hospital for precautionary x-rays on a rib injury following his fall in race seven. Jack Kennedy is fine having been brought down in the same incident.”